Charles de Gaulle: First White House Visitor Following World War II Peace

Americans love France, but we hate the French. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but we do have a very bizarre relationship with France. It’s kind of unfair, given that they pretty much legitimized the Revolution and helped us actually become a country. And, it goes both ways with the Americans and Allied Forces liberating the French from Nazi rule in World War II.

Photograph of President Truman and French President Charles de Gaulle, during welcoming ceremonies on the White House lawn, with officers saluting in the background. (August 22nd, 1945)

Photograph of President Truman and French President Charles de Gaulle, during welcoming ceremonies on the White House lawn, with officers saluting in the background. (August 22nd, 1945)

I came across the above photo of President Charles de Gaulle visiting the White House just after peace was declared following the war. This is historically significant of course, but even more so, since I learned that this was the first visit by a head of state following the end of the war.

Below is a short article in the Washington Post, detailing the upcoming visit.

The White House this week will receive a distinguished guest whose visit can mean much for harmony between Europe and the United States. Solemn-faced General Charles de Gaulle will spend a week or more in Washington, talking with officialdom from President Truman on down.

It is good that he is coming. Too many foolish misunderstandings have got in the way of the friendship that once was a strong current between the two countries.

No mission of major importance brings De Gaulle to Washington this time. He comes, rather, as a good-will visitor, making up in part, at least, for the unhappy circumstances that kept De Gaulle and President Roosevelt from meeting in Europe last winter.

Both sides have committed stupid sins of omission and commission. We have an army in France and that is always a strain, even with the best intentions from both parties.

The help given by the French must be measured against the shattered state of French industry and French transportation after the Germans were driven out. On several occasions, the French came through with equipment desperately needed at critical moments of the war.

On the other hand, the French have been far too ready to disregard or to minimize help furnished by this country. They have been unhappy because we have not sent more, failing to realize the manifold claims of a global war. The easy way out was to put blame for all troubles on us. That was a symptom of the French inferiority complex growing out of the defeat and despair of 1940 and after.

Ouch, that hurts.

While visiting D.C., he stayed, like most heads of state, in Blair House and attended fancy dinners at the Shoreham in Woodley Park and the Mayflower Hotel.

De Gaulle paid a visit to the U.S. a year earlier, in the summer. You can see a short video clip of his earlier, 1944 visit here.


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